Work to construct new US 74/I-26 interchange to start this week

Published 10:51 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

COLUMBUS – The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) says it is “saddling up” for major construction in Columbus just in time for the World Equestrian Games (WEG).

The NCDOT sent a release with information on Monday, Oct. 23 advising of the U.S. 74 interchange that will allow U.S. 74 traffic to avoid the roundabouts from I-26 in Columbus.

NCDOT officials said work is scheduled to begin this week with contractors beginning to clear trees in the work area.

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“The heavy lifting to build a new interchange at Interstate 26 and U.S. 74 in Polk County begins this month with the goal of providing a safer and smoother driving experience for all motorists, including visitors and participants of the 2018 World Equestrian Games,” states the NCDOT release.

The new interchange will cost an estimated $19 million and will separate U.S. 74 traffic from local traffic. The construction is expected to be complete by Aug. 17, 2018. The NCDOT said the construction will be complete in time for visitors from across the globe to enjoy an event that is comparable to the Olympics.

Vecellio & Grogan, Inc. DBA Sharpe Brothers, located in Beckley, W.Va. are the contractors.

“This is an important project to the area, one that has been needed for many years,” said Brian Burch, Acting Division 14 Engineer with the NCDOT. “We’re happy to get this project started and we’ll be working on an accelerated schedule to complete it prior to the World Games.”

The first phase of the project is to clear the project area in preparation for moving dirt and rocks and building embankments for the new roadway, according to NCDOT’s release. A creek channel change and 353-foot long concrete box culvert will be constructed in the early stages of the project.

The end result will be a direct merge lane from U.S. 74 West to I-26 East, which will eliminate the need for drivers to navigate the two roundabouts at the Columbus exit of I-26. NCDOT officials said it will also build a new ramp from I-26 West to U.S. 74, which will include two bridges and eight retaining walls.

Work will be performed in multiple operations in order to finish the job ahead of the completion date, including some around-the-clock work.

The NCDOT is alerting the public that there will be lane closures and lane shifts at various times during construction on both I-26 and U.S. 74.

“Drivers need to adjust their travel times, be aware in this work zone and obey all posted signs and flagging instructions,” states NCDOT’s release.

The WEG will be held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), located off Pea Ridge Road off U.S. 74 for a couple of weeks in mid-September 2018. There is an estimated total of 500,000 people expected to visit the games, with up to 60,000 people attending on heavy show dates.

“We are pleased to be improving area transportation in time for the World Games,”

Burch said. “It’s also an improvement that will have a lasting positive impact on residents and visitors for many years to come.”